Understanding insect life histories and senescence through a resource allocation lens


*Correspondence author. E-mail: cboggs@stanford.edu


  • 1Resource acquisition and allocation are the physiological mechanisms integrating foraging and life-history traits. An understanding of the patterns of acquisition and allocation in different environments and organisms is critical to a predictive theory of life history.
  • 2Here I develop an allocation framework, which provides a template for conceptualizing the interactions among resource acquisition, allocation and life-history traits. The framework describes the process through which food is taken in by an organism at specific life stages, then allocated to growth, survival (including maintenance, defence, dispersal, etc), reproduction and further foraging.
  • 3I use the allocation framework to examine allocation to life-history traits in insects under both benign and stressful environments. Stressful environments result from resource scarcity or harsh environmental conditions. I consider effects of consistent stress or variable stress across time.
  • 4Several broad generalizations emerge from empirical studies, viewed in the allocation framework. First, resource congruence, or the requirement for specific nutrient ratios in, for example, eggs, results in different limiting nutrients for each life-history trait. Second, the timing of resource acquisition affects both allocation patterns and the identity of limiting nutrients for a given life-history trait. Third, physiological trade-offs may occur across, not just within, life stages. Fourth, apparent trade-offs may be driven by differences among traits in resource congruence constraints and deleterious effects of excess nutrients on a particular trait. Fifth, allocation response to environmental stress shows age-specific and sex-specific patterns. Sixth, physiological trade-offs are often more pronounced under environmental stress. Finally, even within insects, there is considerable variability in allocation response to environmental stress. We do not yet have sufficiently diverse and thorough case studies to understand why this is so. Studies in the wild, or relating laboratory conditions to wild environments, are also needed.
  • 5Senescence can also be understood in an allocation framework. The present approach provides a necessary functional basis for understanding patterns of senescence in diverse organisms and environments.
  • 6The allocation framework fosters a mechanistic understanding of life-history patterns, and the beginning of an understanding of the processes underlying those patterns.